SHORT of saying it is over, Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez said the speakership post traditionally belongs to the “man of the Malacanang”.
“The speakership needs only one vote and that is the vote of the President,” Suarez said during Friday’s Balitaan sa Rembrandt Hotel in Quezon City.
Quezon City Representative Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte is likely the bet of Aquino for the post.
Suarez said it is normal for politicians to ally themselves to the President, which has direct control of the Countrywide Development Fund or pork barrel allocations.
The pork barrel, P70 million per congressman and P200 million per senator, was usually used for projects like schools, and farm-to-market roads, which in turn, are trumpeted by lawmakers on reelection campaigns.
“As long as Aquino would keep the lump sum appropriations for congressmen then we are okay. Unfortunately, we don’t have the power of the purse already,” said Suarez.
Earlier, Aquino said he would not block the release of pork barrel allocations to avoid the disruption of providing public services, even in so-called opposition bailiwicks.
In a separate interview, Belmonte said he already had the numbers to occupy the post.
“Yes, we have more than enough numbers to clinch the speakership. As of latest count, we have 180 congressmen on our side,” he told Sun.Star in a text message.
He added that of the 180 who have pledged support, more than 60 are from Lakas-Kampi-CMD, the party of former President Gloria Arroyo.
A total of 287 congressmen are expected to pack the session hall of the Lower House in the 15th Congress, the biggest membership in the institution’s history.
Belmonte served a five-month term as Speaker in the 11th Congress, shortly after Arroyo was catapulted to the presidency through a civilian military-backed uprising against then President Joseph Estrada in January 2001. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)